First Review: Trance ★★☆☆☆


Danny Boyle is a terrific filmmaker, and I know he has been elevated to God-like status after his efforts for the Olympics, but his new film Trance is not very good. Some of it is fairly entertaining, and it looks terrific (thanks to Anthony Dodd Mantle’s cinematography), but it’s full of problems.

There’s a bit of a difficulty here, as if I were to explain the film’s most severe weaknesses it would mean spoiling large parts of the plot (which I am not going to do). Let’s just say I guessed many of the story’s big twists ages before they happened. I don’t say this to boast about my intelligence. I think anyone who has seen a handful of intelligent thrillers, or most of Christopher Nolan’s CV, will in good stead to figure any surprises out for themselves very early on.

James McAvoy works at an auction house where people try to rob a painting. During the theft, he loses the paining and the thieves, lead by Vincent Cassel, need him to tell them where it is. Due to a head injury, he can’t remember. So to cure this, they take him to Harley Street hypnotist Rosario Dawson. From here anyone with a questioning mind will be able to work out what’s happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen. And once you’ve done that, the whole movie feels rather tiresome.

The performances are uniformly fine, but never interesting enough to sustain the movie. Though there are some witty moments, the script, written by Joe Ahearn and John Hodge, feels a little too bland and is only kept alive by Boyle’s frenetic and wacky direction. There is a heavy reliance on contrived events, luck and coincidence and an utterly preposterous revelation involving a hidden corpse which smacks of the very worst kind of lazy TV crime drama. Some viewers may get some pleasure from the story, and Boyle does at least make it generally watchable, but those who want their movies to hold up to closer examination will find this picture wanting.

Trance (2013), directed by Danny Boyle, is released in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox and Pathe UK, Certificate 15. 


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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

1 Comment

  1. avatar

    I generally end up having to force a lot of people to the cinema to see certain films, and Trance was no exception. What was also no exception was the reaction, the people I took loved it. They were however quite surprised upon realising this was the director of 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire, although Mr Boyle has always been one for genre hopping and defying expectation.
    To say the film is bland or tiresome is to do it a discredit, there are scenes of intense excitement: I point you towards the second attempt at regressing McAvoy which ends with him being dragged from the car and the trance by the gang of criminals, or perhaps the final confrontation of the film which had me and several others on the edge of our seats. There are scenes aplenty that have this kind of slow-build and sudden-explosion tension.
    Furthermore I believe anyone who truly works out what is going to happen in the end is some kind of savant when it comes to plot twists and turns, the kind of freakishly acute person who insists they ‘got’ Primer the first time round without any assistance.
    I think Mark Kermode described this film best as a very surface film. Boyle’s visuals are, as always, gorgeous. The performances, at least I felt, outstanding. The revelations jaw dropping. It is not an existential piece, it’s not trying to delve as deep into the human mind as, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Instead it is purely a thriller and one of the most thrilling I have seen in a long time.
    Personally I would have given it a strong four stars, perhaps even 5. I would argue that it deserves absolutely no less than a 3

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